Have I gone too far? Have I lost my mind? The guys at the office think so. To quote “J,” when he came to my office and saw the Domino’s boxes: “Are you serious? Is this a f-ing joke?” To say that my choice of Domino’s Pizza for lunch that day was unpopular would be quite an understatement. I was informed that I’m now on “pizza probation.” So why did I do it?
I don’t eat much pizza from the national chains. But now and then, something catches my eye and curiosity gets the better of me. This time, it was Domino’s “Artisan Pizza.” If you watch any amount of football, you’ve probably seen it in the commercials: “Hand-stretched, artisan-style crusts and perfectly balanced combinations of select quality ingredients.” There are three varieties: Spinach & Feta (no thanks!), Tuscan Salami & Roasted Veggie (maybe), and Italian Sausage & Pepper Trio (sounds good – picture at right). From Domino’s web site, a more detailed description: “Parmesan-asiago cheese and sliced Italian sausage complemented by a trio of roasted red, green and banana peppers, on an artisan-style crust, topped with a dash of oregano.”
What is an artisan crust? Dictionary.com defines “artisan” as: “a person or company that makes a high-quality, distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand and using traditional methods.” I guess this pizza qualifies as artisan on ONE of those counts – it is made by a company. Also, it might qualify as being a “small quantity.” To keep the price point down ($7.99 each), they keep the size small: 13″ x 9″, barely enough for two people. Ours was sliced into 8 pieces.
It was a very thin crust, about 1/8″ to 3/16″, spiked, and baked on a pan. Unlike their regular round crusts, the Artisan does not have the oil-salt-garlic-spice topping added to the rim. I’m not exaggerating when I say this, but the crust was roughly equivalent to a bargain frozen pizza crust. The word “cardboard” truly came to mind. And to be clear, DRY cardboard. There was no chewiness, no complex flavor, just a dry biscuit or cracker-like taste and small crumb texture. It is just about the worst crust I’ve ever had. Sauce was pretty sparse, but I picked up on a lot of saltiness, and a very institutional, acidic canned flavor with no fresh tomato taste. Cheese was average. On a relatively good note, the toppings were basically OK. I took a look at the reviews posted on Domino’s web site, and I can’t imagine that they were tasting the same thing I was. If people really consider this to be a good or excellent pizza, then it just proves my point that a lot of people are used to sub-par pizza and just don’t know any better. We didn’t even finish it.
By the way, in addition to the Artisan product, we also tried a couple of the 14″ round (large) pizzas (on special for $7.99 each, Monday through Friday). One was their regular crust (at right), the other was Brooklyn style (below right). I ordered one of each so I could see what the difference was. The simple answer: same dough, but Brooklyn is thinner at the rim. I really didn’t see any difference in thickness elsewhere. These are baked on a perforated pan, so they aren’t spiked like the Artisan. A great deal of coarse semolina flour coated the bottom, which helps it crisp, and keeps it from sticking. As I mentioned earlier, the round pizzas have the rim coated with an oil-salt-garlic-spice topping (picture at left). It makes the “pizza bones” a little more palatable, but if you eat them all, you will be looking for something to drink in a little while.
The sauce salty and acidic, with little fresh tomato taste, and a highly processed personality. Cheese was only average, with the browned “dots” that are characteristic of conveyor ovens. The toppings were fresh (no rubber mushrooms), and of generally good quality.
Overall, these pizzas were quite disappointing. I knew it wouldn’t measure up to properly prepared pizza from a traditional pizza shop, but I really did expect it to be better than this. As the office guys tormented me for choosing Domino’s, I said, “It’s RESEARCH, guys, RESEARCH!” “J” said, “BS!” “D” quickly responded, “That’s what it tastes like!” Wow, tough crowd! It really is a shame, because Domino’s tries so hard. They have a fantastic web site for online ordering, and the largest array of crust, sauce and toppings choices anywhere. The pizza tracker is also pretty cool. That’s where it ends, though. This pizza has the rare distinction of being too bad to finish. I asked the office gang for their ratings. One said, “It was better than Luigi’s, so 2.5.” Another said, “It was as bad as Luigi’s, so 2.0.” I concur with the latter, so Domino’s Pizza gets a Pizza Geek rating of 2 out of 5 slices. This rating is for the whole package of three pizzas we sampled; the Artisan alone would rate about 1.5. Not recommended except in the most extreme of pizza emergencies – such as when you’ve run out of frozen pizza.
Summary – Pros: excellent web site. Cons: cardboard crust, highly salty sauce, institutional taste.
What do YOU think? Have you tried “Artisan” pizza from Domino’s? How was it? Please leave a comment.